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The Local Paper - Wednesday, April 26, 2017 - Page 00

Local People

Peter Isaacson AM, DFC, AFC, DFM ■ Distinguished military hero and successful businessman Peter Isaacson died on April 7 at the age of 96. Peter Isaacson, of Toorak, owned the ‘Bindaree’ property on Whittlesea-Yea Rd, Flowerdale, for several decades. He was publisher of the Melbourne Observer newspaper from 1977 to 1989. Peter Isaacson Publications was also the printer, under contract to Long Family Newspapers, in 199192, of weekly papers at Yea, Whittlesea, Kinglake, Seymour, Nagambie and Kilmore. He took an active interest in the doings of the Yea, and later Murrindindi, municipalities. Peter Isaacson was born in London on July 31, 1920, moving to Melbourne at age six. He was the son of Arnold Isaacson (son of Solomon Kramer), and Caroline ‘Lynka’ (nee Jacobson), born in Vienna, whose father Emile was Dutch, and whose mother Bettina Lipmann, was French. Arnold Isaacson’s family were in Melbourne: brothers Isidore, Michael, Alex and Abel; and sisters Rebecca and Celina. Arnold and Lynka married at the Dalston Synagogue, North London, in March 1919. The bride, 19, was 19 years younger, than her husband, who became a manufacturers’ agent, later a printing sales representative, travelling throughout country Victoria. Peter Isaacson’s planned enrolment at the Geelong Grammar School did not proceed, partly because of the school fees, partly because of ‘Uncle Alex’s’ objection to morning prayers. Peter attended various state schools in Elwood and Brighton, briefly at Wesley College, and then until age 16 at Brighton Grammar School. He became the Company Quartermaster Sargeant in the School Cadets. Peter Isaacson became a messenger boy at The Age newspaper, where his mother worked as Women’s Editor on the weekly Leader rural newspaper. His starting salary was 19 shillings and 6 pence ($1.95) per week. He attended Dr Hall’s Coaching Academy and matriculated. He enrolled at Melbourne University, doing his study prior to starting at The Age each weekday at 2pm. At age 18, Peter left The Age and joined Paul Freadman at Coronet Publishing and Paul Freadman Advertising, selling programs and book-

● ‘Pi’ in alleged retirement

“I was the proprietor, editor, reporter, sub-editor, advertising salesman, circulation supervisor, office manager and messenger boy.” To work his way around newsprint rationing, Isaacson added the Caulfield Advertiser and Carnegie Courier to his list, which tripled his supply. Later in 1947, Peter Isaacson tok over the Southern Cross suburban newspaper. The Herald and Weekly Times Ltd injected working capital into the fledgling business. He took on involvements with the South Melbourne Record and Camberwell Chronicle newspapers. He became involved in weekly local papers, part of Gippsland Newspapers, which published the Morwell Advertiser, Moe Advocate and Yallourn Livewire. He was part of the conglomerate that wa successful in winning the GLV-10 television station. His cousin, Maurice Sloman, friends with Prime Minister Robert Menzies, was also part of the group

● Peter Isaacson spent some of his retirement time at his ‘Bindaree’ property on Whittlesea-Yea Rd, Flowerdale lets sponsored by charities, local councils and other organisations. He met Anne McIntyre, 16, on vacation from Toorak College, Mt Eliza, at The Milky Way meeting place in Lt Collins St. They were to marry in 1950. In the middle of 1940, Peter Isaacson was selected for the RAAF Air Crew Reserve. He was called up later in the year for initial training school, then to Narrandera for elementary flying training. He trained in Ottawa, Canada, as fighter pilot. His work with Bomber Command, England, from 1942 is detailed in the biography Pathfinder by Denis Warner. Warner quoted Isaacson: “You can’t be too emotional about things like bombing the Germans or Italians. You don’t want to dwell on it. I didn’t. Very few of us did. “That doesn’t mean that you are lacking in basic sympathies, but you are there to do a job. If you didn’t do it to them, they would do it to you.” He argued that Germany had started the war, and it was Germany that first bombed open cities. Peter Isaacson graduated from Halifaxes to Lancasters. A Lancaster’s expected life was 15 to 16 operations. In their dozens of flights they had many ‘close shaves’. Isaacson and crew were given the task of flying a Lancaster from London to Australia, where it was used to sell war bonds. ‘Q for Queenie VI’ received nationwide publicity as pilot Isaacson ● Anne and Peter Isaacson married at The Registry Office flew under the Sydney Harbour that won the BTV-6 licence at Bridge. Ballarat. After the end of World War II, Sloman was also part of a conPeter Isaacson gained special Air sortium to buy land and finance a Force permission to stand as the Libbuilding in Prahran to house the eral Party candidate for Prahran. growing publishing business. He was defeated by 47 votes. He Other ventures included the Sunsays that being beaten was the best day Free Press joint venture with thing that ever happened to him. He Progress Press at Chadstone, Inwould never have started a business ternational Travel, and This Week In if he had won the seat. Melbourne (with sister publications Demobbed, he bought the in Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane, Elsternwick Advertiser suburban Perth, Adelaide, Newcastle, Cairns newspaper business, using £400 in and Darwin). deferred pay to go into business. Later, the Daily Commercial News As he did many times in his busibusiness was purchased.The Komness career, Isaacson enlisted the pass Industrial Register directory of help of his cousin Maurice Sloman business listings. for working capital. Expansion followed with the Asian “So here I was, sitting in this two Business Press joint venture. by two office all by myself at a desk In 1977, Maxwell Newton’s era borrowed from Anne’s father, writof the Melbourne/Sunday Observer ing the news, selling the advertising ● War-time Air Force pilot

● In his 20s as an Air Force military hero came to an inglorious end. Peter Isacson purchased the business for $425,000. Denis Warner wrote: “Isaacson described it as semi-pornographic rag, put together with scissors and paste from a sheaf of lurid overseas publications.” The Isaacson business for some time continued to accept brothel advertising. He later moved the paper more up-market. Accounting advisor Ron Pitcher pleaded in later years for Isaacson to close the Observer business because of its ongoing financial losses. In 1989, the decision was made for him when Rupert Murdoch announced that he would start two Sunday newspapers: the Sunday Sun and the Sunday Herald; and The Age started its own Sunday edition. Isaacson closed the Observer. It was later re-commenced as a midweek paper by Local Media. Isaacson also tried the Sunday Territorian business in Darwin, but was thwarted by Murdoch starting an identically named paper. In the early 1990s, the O’Reilly family’s APN group took over the Isaacson publishing business that was recording group revenues of $35 million, but not making returns at international best standards. Isaacson remained as a Director for some time, but the APN group took his company in unfamiliar directions. Years later, he made a diary note that he lamented what APN had done to his business. In his late 70s, 80s and 90s, Peter Isaacson kept up his community interests. He was a Trustee, Chairman and Life Governor of the Shrine of Remembrance. He was a Director of companies including Balmoral Village and Henry Bucks. He was decorated with the Medal of the Order of Australia ‘for services to the print media and the community”. He was a leader with the Cairnmillar Institute. Peter Isaacson’s post-nominals also included the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Force Cross and Distinguished Flying Medal. Anne Isaacson died last year. His sister Barbara ‘Joan’ Beck died on the same day as Peter (April 7). He is survived by sons Tony and Tim and their families. A memorial service will be held in May. Peter Isaacson was a tough businessman, described as having a “heart of gold”. He could be a bully, and/or an angel. He lived by a maxim: “when in doubt, do the courageous thing”. His courage was often extraordinary. - Ash Long

Local Media - Tribute to Peter Isaacson  

Local Media - Tribute to Peter Isaacson

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